I started this blog to talk about economics, politics, and the like, for the most part. Lately it seems like I’ve been talking more and more about running. Other runners will understand. Running started out for me as a way to lose weight, and in time it became a way of life, a way of access to my mind and soul, a thing to do to get away for awhile, alone with my frustrations and fears, my excitements, disappointments, and plans.
Last week I was on top of the world. I began running eight miles—up from my previous usual daily run of six miles. On Monday I noticed a little bit of pain in my right shin, so as a precaution I bought new running shoes, since they were due for replacement anyhow. The new running shoes have a harder sole, which the salesman told me is good for someone who runs long distances, and I being at or above 36 miles a week qualify for that description.
The eight mile runs continued until Friday, when I felt a slight, dull pain in my achilles tendon on my right foot. I kept running. That was my first and most crucial mistake. I wasn’t particularly worried until Saturday, when I had to abandon a run after only two blocks. But Sunday was better, and I jogged the half mile home from the subway without a problem. This gave me hope—too much hope, in fact, as it made me think I could get back in the saddle, but yesterday morning’s run was abandoned nearly as quickly as Saturday’s.
By 3pm I could barely stand to walk. Through a friend I tracked down a podiatrist I’m acquainted with, and this afternoon I spoke with him on the phone. It’s quite clear to me that this injury is serious business, and I might well pay a price for failing to recognize that sooner than I did. Moreover, as I found out this afternoon, I engaged in two risks factors that can lead to this particular injury—increasing distance and new shoes—within a few days of each other.
There is a difficult balance to be struck in all this. One’s health must be guarded, but it’s also important not to be a wimp. It’s all very frustrating, and frightening. An uncertain future in running gives me nightmares about getting fat again and having all the problems associated with that. This injury also brings me face-to-face with the limitations of my own will. When dealing with outside forces, it is easier to delude ourselves, to convince ourselves that we have more control over things than we really do. But when your own body resists your will, you run straight into the brick wall that says, “You are not God.” The mind-body disconnect is very troubling to people who think they have it all put together.
Years ago, a mentor of mine, a Catholic bishop who used to engage me in long conversations about the music of Gustav Mahler and other things you’d never expect a bishop to care about (but he’s a Jesuit, and therefore cultured), told me that I am pissed off because I am not God. I ran into a friend the same day, and I related the story to him, and he agreed with the bishop without missing a beat.
I am pissed off because I am not God. I can’t run right now, and there is nothing my will can do on its own to fix this. I just need to get over it, and allow the experience to cut my ego down to its proper size, and in the meantime, my love of running will doubtless increase, so that when I can return, I will be grateful for every last step I can take—even the ones in yucky winter and early spring weather.